As Korea’s second-largest metropolitan area, the southern port city of Busan is filled with lively markets and bustling malls, where shoppers can find everything from live eels to K-Beauty products to designer handbags.
In addition to a plethora of traditional local markets purveying seafood, socks, kitchen utensils, dried herbs, and oh-so-much more, Busan is a luxury lovers’ dream. The city boasts the world’s largest department store, Shinsegae, which measures in at a whopping 5.4 million square feet. Save room in your suitcase, you’ll need it as you check out our list of the best places to shop in Busan.
Be sure to bring your passport when shopping at the Duty Free Store, department stores, and a variety of other retail establishments, because Korea offers tax-free shopping options to foreign tourists spending between 30,000 won and 500,000 won per purchase (restrictions apply). Depending on the store, you’ll either be given an immediate tax refund, or a VAT refund receipt that you’ll need to submit at the airport prior to departure.
Shinsegae Centum City Department Store
Seeing as it’s the world’s largest department store according to the Guinness Book of World Records, it makes sense to begin your Busan shopping journey at Shinsegae Centum City Department Store. This retail behemoth occupies two buildings and measures in at a massive 5,487,595 square feet. The store sells men’s, women’s, and children’s clothes, plus golf wear, and luxury brands, and cosmetics. The department store also includes multiple cinemas, food courts, and even a full-blown spa and sauna complex.
One of the city’s trendiest districts is Seomyeon, which bustles 24 hours a day. It’s a popular nightlife district oozing with bars and karaoke rooms, but during the day it becomes a haven for shoppers on the hunt for Korea’s famed cosmetics and skincare brands for both men and women. Some of the most popular options are Olive Young (which sells multiple brands), Tony Moly, and The Face Shop, among many, many others.
Gamcheon Culture Village
What began as a housing community for refugees in the 1950s has turned into what is now known as Gamcheon Culture Village. This colorful hillside community is known for labyrinthine alleys lined with vibrant houses, many of which are painted with bright murals by children and local artists. The village is as Instagrammable as they come, and the hillside location provides great views of Gamcheon Bay below. But what does this have to do with shopping? The village features a small yet charming gift shop bursting with typical souvenirs such as postcards and magnets, plus traditional Korean keepsakes such as stationery, fans, and embroidery.
You won’t find souvenirs or clothes here but Jagalchi Market is a must-see for curious travelers. The largest fish market in Korea and known for its high number of female fishmongers, Jagalchi Market was established after the Korean War and has been a famed Busan destination for all species aquatic ever since.
Row after row of vendors purveying buckets of eels, abalone, mackerel, sea squirts, octopi, and any number of delicacies await the seafood curious, some of which can be consumed raw and others cooked to order on the spot. There’s also a specific area of the market that really does focus on dried fish and squid, which is a South Korean staple, thus perhaps souvenir shopping can be accomplished at this lively fish market after all.
The market is open seven days a week from 2 a.m. to 10 p.m. Visit in October to attend the Jagalchi Cultural Tourism Festival, which features a glimpse into traditional Korean sea and fishing culture.
Haeundae Traditional Market
Just across the street from the white sands of the oft-crowded Haeundae Beach lies the Haeundae Traditional Market. While you won’t find any luxury items in this compact market, which mainly occupies only one alley-like street, you will find a plethora of Korean souvenirs, accessory shops, and street food vendors selling snacks such as tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes), hotteok (sweet, filled pancakes), and odeng (fish cakes).
Bring cash. ATMs that accept foreign cards are readily available in most convenience stores in the Haeundae Beach area.
The lively cultural area of BIFF Square was created in 1996 as the centerpiece of the first Busan International Film Festival. Since its opening, BIFF Square has become the city’s most dynamic theater district, as well as a lively shopping hub featuring fast fashion, cosmetics stores, souvenir shops, street food carts, and tons of restaurants.
Since shopping outlets range from street vendors to chain stores, it's best to bring a mix of cash and cards.
Lotte Duty Free
If you love airport duty free shopping, you’ll want to make a trip to Lotte Duty Free Busan Store. Occupying two entire floors of the downtown Lotte Department Store, this duty free delight is bursting with more than 500 brands of luxury products like bags, sunglasses, and perfumes, plus Korean specialty items like ginseng, tea, liquor, and skincare items.
The store is about 40 minutes’ drive from both the Port of Busan and Gimhae International Airport, so those on a long layover or heading out of the country should plan accordingly. There’s even a bus departing the airport terminal that deposits voracious shoppers directly outside the Lotte Department Store.